Co.Design

Google Just Revealed The First Decent Smartwatch Interface

Google has revealed their interface for their upcoming Android Wear watches. And it’s further proof that Google has figured out how to scale their experience.

This is Google’s new interface for Android Wear--a platform the company announced unceremoniously on YouTube today--that connects an Android phone to a watch to bring Google to your wrist.

But what exactly is Google on your wrist? What does it tell you? How do you control it?

Watching the videos, you’ll see that Google answered that question a long time ago through Google Now--the platform that learns your behaviors and predicts the information you’ll need before you ask for it. Now’s interface pièce de résistance is essentially an index card--which is easily resized and reshaped to any screen you can imagine.

In theory, Android Wear has a Google Now card already waiting for you whenever you need it. The watch becomes a mostly passive interface for the user, that has information available at a glance, from local weather conditions, to text messages you’ve been sent, to the taxi pulling up in front of you. The passive approach here is absolutely key, as the smartwatches we’ve seen from companies like Samsung don’t actually change communication paradigms as much as they strap a smaller smartphone to your wrist, sending a few push notifications like SMS, sure, but forcing you to tap and swipe for the good stuff.

Android Wear still enables voice and gesture. Just like in the Google Glass headset, you can search by saying “Okay, Google.” And in this second clip especially, it’s quite clear how Google sets up a series of screens to start your day--including the weather, traffic conditions, etc.--that you can explore by swiping through each discrete card at a time.

But to focus on the taps and speech is to miss the real potential in Android Wear: all of that contextual stuff provided by an omniscient Google Now. Because the better Now becomes at understanding the context of your life, the less you’ll need to hunt your way around a one-inch screen. Compare two scenarios. In scenario one, you have a Yelp app on your wrist. You tap the icon. It loads restaurants near you. You tap again to select your restaurant. You read a review. In scenario two--a hypothetical Android Wear scenario--you glance at your watch in front of any restaurant, and its review is already there waiting for you.

It’s just too bad that Google is launching Android Wear’s remarkable, familiar UI with tired smartwatch industrial design, because the smartwatch hardware the company has teased here is the same clunky mess we’ve seen from companies like LG before (even if Motorola is teasing a slightly fresher, rounded-faced version called the Moto 360), rather than, say, an ergonomically curved display that will likely define the category in the years to come.

Android Wear is a true contextual interface, backed by an ingenious predictive cloud platform. Now it just needs the right hardware to make it irresistible.

Read more here.

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16 Comments

  • It's nice to say "an ergonomically curved display that will likely define the category in the years to come" in the abstract, but the concepts of a slap bracelet/giant bangle style wraparound we've seen look ridiculous. Nobody is going to wear one of those unless they're matching it to their bright blue retro-futurist jumpsuit. The Moto 360, if they actually produce something remotely close to the design they're showing, or something like Gábor Balogh's smartwatch concept (https://www.behance.net/gallery/Smartwatch-Concept/14929833), is a more realistic direction, as it isn't trying to completely upend watch fashion for the sake of technology.

  • Tadas Lab

    If Google Now actually worked it would be cool. Have used it on my nexus 5 for weeks with all possible sensors and data on for it to only suggest that I have an appointment, after the appointment.

  • Siddhartha Madhavareddy

    Hey Google.Is it not redundant to have two wearable gadgets at the same time. Which device responds first, when we say "OK GOOGLE" ? Google Glass or Google Wear or both? Think GOOGLE before you do OK GOOGLE.

  • Very interesting. Smart watches were always expected to go in this direction, but to actually see it happen is still very, very cool. And as a developer I see a ton of potential applications for it. Just hope that Google can make working with Android easier than it is now.

  • It is clear that technology will work as an invisible friend, presenting information at the consumer's request and providing services that the wearer will become to rely upon from an ever efficient personal assistant. Technology will become interwoven as the wearer of smart watch/glass/bracelets uses technology in almost every aspect of their day-to-day lives.

  • How much will this device cost? $299? All the functionality of a smart phone in a smaller device? Is this intended for people to buy instead of smart phones or with smart phones? This is the wrong approach. I hope Apple creates a smart band with a cheaper price point ($99) that gets mass adoption (low price) .. because the sensors in this smart band will supplement apps on the smart phone and launch a whole new wave of app development.

  • Fashion continuously changes, but it seems like most of the youth growing up today never grew up in a time where watches were in vogue. Even with built in good software, would watch wearing become very popular when smartphones are 90% as convenient and provide a much better user experience by virtue of the adequate screen size? I think not, but we'll see. Google seems to be going heavily into wearable electronics.

  • Jaky Astik

    Here's the problem. You're trying to put software in the same piece of hardware without making any considerable changes to the design you've been using for centuries. A cellphone does the same job these devices do and that too with much better efficiency.

    Google Glass is innovative. But these watches are the result of designer's block - an outcome of design frustration when you could come out with nothing innovative to add to the current form factors with your design skills.